Lyle Bettger

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Lyle Bettger
Lyle Bettger in The Greatest Show on Earth trailer.jpg
Born (1915-02-13)February 13, 1915
Philadelphia, U.S.
Died September 24, 2003(2003-09-24) (aged 88)
Atascadero, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1950–1980
Spouse(s) Paula Rolfe (1940; ); 3 children

Lyle Stathem Bettger (February 13, 1915 – September 24, 2003) was an American character actor who had roles in Hollywood films and television from the 1950s onward, often portraying villains. One such role was the wrathfully jealous elephant handler Klaus from the Oscar-winning film The Greatest Show on Earth (1952).

Early years

Bettger was born in Philadelphia, the son of Frank Bettger, an infielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Mertie Stathem Bettger. He graduated from the Haverford School in Haverford, Pennsylvania, and from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.[1]


Bettger's theatrical debut was in Brother Rat at the Biltmore Theatre in New York City in 1936. His Broadway credits include Dance Night (1938), Summer Night (1939), The Flying Gerardos (1940–1941), The Moon Is Down (1942), All for All (1943), Oh, Brother! (1945), John Loves Mary (1947–1948), and Love Life (1948–1949).[2]

When Paramount sent a talent scout to see him, Bettger was signed to a three-year contract.[citation needed]


Bettger's movie career began when he was cast in The Lie in 1949.[3] Movie columnist Frank Neill reported, "On the basis of his performance in the movie, he has been signed to a juicy contract."[4]

Later Bettger was cast as the lead in the film noir No Man of Her Own (1950). He soon became a regular on the set of Westerns such as Denver and Rio Grande (1952), The Great Sioux Uprising (1953), Forbidden (1953), Drums Across the River (1954), Destry (1955), The Lone Ranger, (1956) and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). Lyle developed a reputation for playing the bad guy and excelled in villainous roles such as the menacing Joe Beacom in Union Station (1950) and the cold-blooded Nazi Chief Officer Kirchner in The Sea Chase (1955). One of his later roles was in the 1969 film Impasse as a bigoted World War II veteran.[citation needed]


Programs on which Bettger appeared in old-time radio included Grand Central Station.[5]


Bettger made many appearances in dramatic roles on television, starring in the 1957 series The Court of Last Resort[6] as well as guest starring on Hawaii Five-O, Rawhide, The Tall Man, The Rifleman, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Blue Light, and The Time Tunnel.[citation needed]

Personal life

Bettger was married to Mary Rolfe (1940–1996), an actress who played Henry Aldrich's sister in The Aldrich Family on radio,[7] until her death. They had three children: Lyle, Jr., Frank, and Paula. He died on September 24, 2003 in Atascadero, California aged 88. His remains were cremated. He was survived by his children and a sister.[citation needed]

Partial filmography


  1. ^ Aaker, Everett (2006). Encyclopedia of Early Television Crime Fighters. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-6409-8. Pp. 49-51.
  2. ^ "Lyle Bettger". Playbill Vault. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  3. ^ Gwynn, Edith (August 30, 1949). "Hollywood". Pennsylvania, Pottstown. Pottstown Mercury. p. 4. Retrieved January 3, 2016 – via  open access publication – free to read
  4. ^ Neill, Frank (September 26, 1949). "Around Hollywood". Pennsylvania, New Castle. New Castle News. p. 19. Retrieved January 3, 2016 – via  open access publication – free to read
  5. ^ "Saturday Highlights". Iowa, Mason City. The Mason City Globe-Gazette. September 5, 1947. p. 1. Retrieved January 3, 2016 – via  open access publication – free to read
  6. ^ Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (1979). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows: 1946-Present. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-25525-9. P. 137.
  7. ^ Gerhard, Inez (July 22, 1948). "Star Dust". Texas, Shiner. Shiner Gazette. p. 6. Retrieved January 3, 2016 – via  open access publication – free to read

External links

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